Job: Parks department foreman since 2000
Family: Wife, Katy; daughters, Emma, 23, and Annie, 19
Skills: Wichman has an associate degree in horticulture from Blackhawk Technical College but gives much of the credit for his green thumb to his family.
"I grew up with an Italian mother and grandfather," Wichman said. "I'm sure it's all in the blood."
Hobby: Building quarter-inch model railroad cars
If he had a million dollars: Wichman would finish work at Delavan's Veterans Park, build a new city recreation center, replace some big trees for future generations and start an inventory of the city's trees.
Secret arborist dream: In order to slow the spread of disease, arborists discourage planting the same kind of trees next to each other.
Just once, Wichman would like to throw caution to the wind and plant a long double row of elm trees such as the one that used to grow over Borg Road in the city of Delavan.
"I don't care what they say about too many together," Wichman said. "I'm going to do it anyhow."
DELAVAN Standing among the lumpy couches and dusty wood paneling in the parks department office, Ed Wichman shakes up a jar of hot chocolate.
His cheeks are rosy from the cold, and his curly red hair shows signs of a recent stocking cap.
Wichman makes his guest a cup of tea and wonders out loud why anybody could be interested in talking to him. After a short chat about his family and job, Wichman remembers, like an afterthought.
"Oh! I should tell you about our Rotary Gardens!"
His bright eyes get a little dreamy when he talks about the importance of green space to the mental health of a community.
"Everybody's attitude is much better with that green space around," Wichman said.
Wichman, 52, has been the city of Delavan Parks Department foreman since 2000. A horticulturist by trade, Wichman serves on the board of directors for the Delavan Rotary Gardens Foundation. Wichman has been instrumental in creating the Rotary Gardens in the city's Congdon Park, said Dick Gifford, fellow foundation board member.
"I don't know what we'd do without him," Gifford said. "I really don't."
Wichman oversees the labor that goes into planting and caring for the one-plus-acre garden in the 29-acre park on Hobbs Drive, Gifford said. Wichman brings cheer and passion to his work, Gifford said.
He's not the only one who has noticed.
Parks Director Jeff Malloy couldn't ask for more in an employee, he said. Wichman is passionate about his work but isn't the type to seek credit, Malloy said.
"He's kind of an 'aww shucks' kind of guy," Malloy said. "He's very unassuming."
Delavan isn't the only community to benefit from Wichman's skills.
Doug Anderson is the senior pastor at Calvary Community Church in Williams Bay. The Wichman family—Ed and his wife and two daughters—have the unofficial job of decorating the church, inside and out, Anderson said.
Wichman spearheads the church's landscaping work and devotes hundreds of hours to decorating the church for holidays and special performances, Anderson said.
"He's remarkably talented," Anderson said.
Wichman spoke to the Gazette on a sunny day in January—one of those almost warm days when city crews hustle to clear ice and snow off streets and sidewalks.
"Snow is a four letter word for me," Wichman said. "But the fellows in the street department just love it."
At the time, Wichman was looking forward to getting seed catalogs in the mail so he could start making plans for spring. He'll think about color and texture as he makes his choices. After all, flowerbeds are an art form, said Wichman, the son of two art teachers.
"That's my palette now," Wichman said.